Get lost in reading “Project Hail Mary” this year

The cover of Project Hail Mary

Courtesy of Fair Use Image

The cover of Project Hail Mary

Andy Weir, famed author of The Martian and the somewhat lesser-known Artemis, released his third novel Project Hail Mary early this May. I took it upon myself to read it this Thanksgiving Break, and it’s one of the more fun books I’ve read this year.

Andy Weir brings his classic combination of hard science fiction and odds-defying situations to Project Hail Mary. However, this has led to criticism of Weir’s writing becoming formulaic, though admittedly I’ve never actually read The Martian so I can’t speak to the veracity of the claim. Whatever the case, this shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a solid piece of surprisingly heart-warming science fiction.

The premise of the book is somewhat simple: A man wakes up in a place he doesn’t recognize, with no idea who he is or how he got there. He soon realizes that he’s in a spacecraft, and that he’s earth’s only hope to stop an extinction level event. His other two crewmates are dead, and he’s been left on his own to discover the key to stopping an ecological disaster on Earth light-years away from home.

In the beginning of the book, most information on the setting is slowly revealed through memories. It continues to be used as a method to advance the plot, and helps to break up some of the slower parts of the book. Interestingly, in the beginning of the book I found myself constantly wanting to read more of his memories but as the book progressed, I wanted to speed through them so I could read more of the present.

It’s pretty quickly revealed that the source of Earth’s impending extinction is a thin red line arcing up from the sun down towards Venus. The sun is slowly growing dimmer and dimmer, and as it loses light the earth will be thrust into a new, potentially permanent ice age. Astronomers observed that other stars had also lost light, but all of them stabilized at 20% light loss. That would be enough loss to plunge the Earth into ecological failure and kill at least half of Earth’s near 8 billion population.

While the book begins as the story of a man slowly remembering his mission and trying to find a solution to the slow death of his planet, it gradually changes into an exploration of evolution and alien life. The way Weir deals with alien life is very compelling, and he finds creative ways to justify it existing in a way we can understand.

Project Hail Mary is a perfect book for those who love grounded science fiction. It includes detailed, (sometimes tediously long) descriptions of technologies and experiments, based on scientific fact. Though it probably helps to be somewhat nerdy about science and space travel, the book is honestly extremely compelling and gripping no matter who you are. It’s a far-fetched concept, but the science Weir includes helps to keep it grounded in reality. Project Hail Mary is a good read to sit back and get lost in one man’s fight against global extinction.